Rocket League has just turned five, but the game has had quite the journey. From launching in July 2015 on PC and PlayStation 4, to being ported to Xbox the following year, the game has entertained millions of players with its addicting rocket-powered cars. Now Psyonix is preparing for its biggest update yet, in which Rocket League will be made free-to-play.
Of course, this decision has been a long time coming. Psyonix were, after all, bought out by Epic Games last year, and the development team have spoken about their desire to make it free in the past. So in order to understand why the free-to-play update is coming now and what the future might hold, we sat down with Scott Rudi and Corey Davis, the game director and co-studio head of development.
“Going free-to-play has been in the works for quite some time,” Rudi tells The Loadout. “We were looking for the right time to make it happen. Things started to align when we were acquired by Epic and we made the decision that we wanted to go onto the Epic Games Store as a free-to-play game. It just fit.”
The timing of the update, which also includes cross-progression and bonuses for long-term Rocket League fans, has been delayed though. The global pandemic caused by COVID-19 has impacted development on the game, forcing Psyonix to delay the update. Davis says the team hoped to make the game free-to-play “earlier in the summer” but since the entire team is now working from home full-time, adjustments had to be made.
While many fans welcomed the decision to go free-to-play, Psyonix intially faced criticism from fans who dislike Epic Games and the company’s new platform. It also wasn’t clear initially what the acquisition meant for the future of Rocket League on Steam, and while the latest announcement makes it clear that current players will still be able to launch and play the game from Steam, new players will have to download it from the Epic Games Store. This tension is something the team are all too aware of, but remain committed to supporting the game and its players – wherever they play it from.
“We think that players will find the Epic Games Store to be a great platform for Rocket League, and we’ll be sharing more information on any specifics players need to know as we get closer to launch,” Rudi says. “Existing players are also free to remain on their platform of choice – wherever they’re most comfortable.”
Davis also adds that Steam Workshop integration will also “continue to work as it does today,” so Steam players won’t lose all their custom maps and modes as first feared.
Going free-to-play in this climate is no mean feat and Rudi and Davis are proud of everything their teams have so far achieved, especially when it comes to cross-platform. While they both admit they wish tournaments could have been more robust, they are optimistic for the future of the feature and Rocket League as a whole.
More information about the free-to-play update, plus changes the the Rocket League ranks and tournament system will be coming soon.